Crystal Group is scaling up Gap Incs PACE (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) programme to reach 40,000 workers across its global operations by 2020

Crystal Group is scaling up Gap Inc's PACE (Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement) programme to reach 40,000 workers across its global operations by 2020

Sportswear giant Nike and Hong Kong based manufacturer Crystal Group are the only two apparel companies that have made it onto Fortune magazine's official 'Change The World' list for 2016, which ranks businesses on their sustainability efforts.

The list, which was started last year, recognises companies that have had a positive social impact through activities that are part of their core business strategy, and prioritises those with annual revenues of $1bn or more.

Fortune explains that as "more businesses are taking on society's biggest problems – and making money doing so," its goal is to "look at 50 companies that do well by doing good."

Companies are ranked in terms of their impact on societal problems, the economic benefit this brings to the business, and the degree of innovation compared to others in the sector.

At Nike, which was ranked at number six on the list, 71% of footwear and apparel uses 'Nike Grind,' which is made of recycled polyester and other materials and can be found in yarn and basketball shoes.

And each of its Flyknit shoes generates about 60% less waste than a traditional one, saving nearly 2m pounds of fabric-scrap waste since 2012. New 2020 targets include sourcing 100% of cotton more sustainably and reducing landfill waste.

Privately-owned Crystal Group, which came 17th on the 'Change the World' list, is the only garment manufacturer and the only Hong Kong company to feature in the ranking. It won praise for "Teaching women vital job skills while helping the denim industry cure its pollution blues."

The apparel maker operates 20 factories in China, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia and Sri Lanka producing 300m garments a year for customers such as Levi's, Uniqlo and H&M.

Yet its achievements include a 30% reduction in fresh water consumption per garment over the past year, thanks in part to Crystal's China denim jeans factory, which has pioneered a lasering method that uses no water or chemicals in its processing.

Crystal Group has also launched female empowerment programmes with the aim of advancing the lives of up to 40,000 workers by 2020, an important task in a company where around 70% of the workforce are women. Mental coaches are assigned to all factories, and in-house training courses equip workers with computer literacy and leadership skills.

"We want to raise the standard for the whole industry," said Catherine Chiu, the company's general manager of corporate quality and sustainability.

The 'Change The World' top-ten company list for 2016 is as follows:

  • 1: GlaxoSmithKline (Pharmaceuticals)
  • 2: IDE Technologies (Industrial Machinery)
  • 3: General Electric (Industrial Machinery)
  • 4: Gilead Sciences (Pharmaceuticals)
  • 5: Nestlé (Food Consumer Products)
  • 6: Nike (Apparel)
  • 7: Mastercard (Financial Data Services)
  • 8: United Technologies (Aerospace & Defense)
  • 9: Novozymes (Specialty Chemicals)
  • 10: First Solar (Energy) 

Big data contributes to Crystal Group sustainability gains

Crystal Denim cuts garment carbon footprint by 20%

Crystal Group aims empowerment drive at 40,000 workers